So, How Was Practice?

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The way Longhorn coaches are conducting practice these days at the Home Depot facility in Carson, California is different from the way the team drills in Austin. The sessions are also a departure from most of the previous bowl week workouts during coach Mack Brown's eight-year tenure.

Texas' Rose Bowl preparation focuses less on hitting and more on conditioning than in recent years, while tweaking the game plan that players, coaches and Horn fans everywhere dearly hope will secure the program's first national championship in 35 years.

"We felt like most of our physical contact should be done at home," Brown said. "When we get out here, we'll still run, we'll still condition but we try to sell them on getting in bed and getting rest. They don't realize, with the attention around the game, with practice, with going to Disneyland, with all the people grabbing you, all those things wear you down. There's constant attention. We have a tight curfew, and playing in L.A. is two hours earlier than in Austin. If they go to bed at 11 o'clock here, it's one o'clock in Austin. We're very, very careful with what they eat and drink."

In other words, there won't be another 'inside drill' until spring training.

"The closer the game gets, the more you back off," Brown said. "This will be an intense week of preparation but, it will not be as physical this week as it would have been back in Austin. That's something we learned."

Consider it a lesson learned as a result of the 2003 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington State, the last time Texas failed to notch a 'W' when entering as the favorite. Players and coaches were, of course, bitterly disappointed that Kansas State's upset of Oklahoma cost Texas a BCS bid, an invitation that was considered a given until that season's Big 12 Championship game. Upon further review, Brown believes his pre-bowl preparation may have done more to cost his team an 11th win in 2003 than did player disinterest in another trip to a Second Tier venue.

"The approach that I took as a head coach was to go back like it was the start of the year and to be really tough on the guys," Brown said. "We had great practices. We were sixth in the country and wanted to finish in the Top Five. We got to the bowl and did the same thing. But two days before the game we just fizzled. The guys were just whipped. They were giving out and they played that way."

Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said the biggest post-season change since he's been at Texas is shortening the length of time players spend on the practice field once they reach the bowl site. The shift resulted, in part, from picking the brains of other coaches. The list includes Darrell Royal, who cautioned Brown against "winning the game on Tuesday but losing it on Saturday." The bowl week practice schedule still reflects the lingering influence of former co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson, Davis said.

"Greg Robinson told us what they did (with the Denver Broncos) during the Super Bowl times," he said. "He told us that what we did once we get to the site is different because of the amount that being at the site itself takes out of you. It factors into less practice time."

USC coach Pete Carroll divides the post-season into three segments.

"The first phase is like spring football for us," he said. "We spend a lot of time just playing ball, competing against one another, using situational plays that requires you to use your head and not just go through the motions of running plays. The next phase is really a concept from the old (San Francisco) 49er days, preparing for Super Bowls, when you have two weeks before you play. We finish our game plan before Christmas and have everything in place as much as we can, have the brain work done and then (the final phase) is we just physically try to practice at a great tempo to get you ready for game time."

Following Saturday's workout, there will be only two practice days remaining until the BCS National Championship. Both Texas and USC will devote Tuesday to a walk-through session at the Rose Bowl.


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